Myths About Brain Injuries – Loss of Consciousness

By John Cooper, Virginia Brain Injury Lawyer

One of my main areas of emphasis in my personal injury practice is traumatic brain injury.  Traumatic brain injury can be everything from a concussion up through a coma.  However, the most common thing we see in personal injury litigation from car and truck crashes and through trips and falls at stores is what is somewhat misleadingly called mild traumatic brain injury. 

Mild traumatic brain injury also called concussion occurs when a person suffers either a direct blow to the head or just a severe jolting like in shaken baby syndrome or a basic whiplash event in a vehicle collision. 

Mild traumatic brain injury can be serious

Many people, and even some misguided health care professionals misunderstand what are the diagnostic requirements in order to constitute a medically valid concussion event.  One of these main myths is that there must always be some confirmed loss of consciousness. 

Loss of consciousness, or blacking out for as little as a few seconds, is often present when somebody has suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). However, it isn't always present and the diagnostic criteria including those accepted by the United States governments and Center for Disease Control, the medical researcher for the nation, acknowledges that loss of consciousness and altered mentation or confusion and disorientation can also be a valid predicate to a proper diagnosis of traumatic brain injury.  The tricky part about

The tricky part about loss of consciousness is that it is typically not witnessed unless there happens to be a passenger in the vehicle or some other circumstance where a second person is right there at the exact moment that the car crash or injury occurs.  Loss of consciousness is usually under five seconds in a mild traumatic brain injury situation.  So even the ambulance driver, police officer or other people involved in a car wreck who show up shortly after the event are not going to be in a position normally to see that the person is blacked out or has suffered the loss of consciousness. 

Even the idea of asking the victim whether they had a loss of consciousness (LOC) is somewhat silly.  They may be able to recall "waking up" which is often how the loss of consciousness is experienced.  However, certainly while the person is blacked out, they don't know that they're blacked out.  With the rush of all the adrenaline and unhappy emotions going on in the immediate aftermath of a serious car wreck people don't really know and can't really say for sure whether they suffered a loss of consciousness.  That's why you often see in the medical records something about "possible" or "questionable" LOC.

It's much more common that the people who come upon the person shortly after the wreck will find them acting strange, loopy, dazed, or some other way of describing being disoriented or confused as a result of the blow to the brain. 

Another common way that altered mentation is shown after a car wreck is that the person has amnesia about exactly what happened also sometimes called delirium.  The amnesia or inability to remember exactly what happened in the wreck is quite common.  Often what the person says is 'I remember sitting at the light and the next thing I knew I was in the ambulance or in the hospital.'  The mild traumatic brain injury and concussion causes that altered cognition that causes them to not remember.  Note this also means that they won't remember whether they had a loss of consciousness.

This myth that there has to be confirmed loss of consciousness and to be a proper diagnosis of concussion or TBI is often misused and taken advantage of by the insurance companies defending automobile accident litigation involving TBI.  The insurance company, their claims agents or lawyers will say there can't have been the TBI because there wasn't loss of consciousness.  Either they are being deliberately disingenuous or they should know that loss of consciousness is not required for a proper concussion diagnosis.  Traumatic brain injury is a hot topic in personal injury circles.  If you get hurt and think that you've suffered a concussion or even worse long-term effects of a TBI you need to have an experienced personal injury attorney who knows something about brain injury and can debunk these myths. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (757) 455-0077

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